The preparations for the community theatre project ‘Slowly as Fast As I can’… by Ester Natzijl

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As part of my #SEDsupported Flourish Fund bursary I received mentoring with Anne Colvin to build a skills base around delivering creative workshops with young teenage boys who potentially would lead towards a show with the working title ‘Slowly as fast as we can’. My vision was to explore the social and emotional effects of gaming on early teens.

 

As a theatre-maker specialised in puppetry and dance and as a mother of three step-children (pre-teen and teenage boys), who are hooked on online multi-player games (such as Tanki Online and Fortnite), I got the idea to create a workshop targeted at teenage boys of all different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. I wanted to focus on boys on the cusp of the end of primary school beginning secondary school, the time where they start to create their identity. I asked myself the question why gaming is so popular? And could I draw the benefits of the gaming into the real world by means of dance and puppetry?

 

With the limited experience in community and participation theatre that I have, I started the process of setting up this whole plan. I quickly realised though that working with difficult to reach communities requires a much more well thought-through approach than when working with professionals, with whom I’ve the most experience.

 

So far I’ve had two afternoons with Anne Colvin and she opened my mind in many ways by providing a number of tools to help me approach these groups. As a theatre maker following my mission is what drives me: However I imagine my world (on Stage) , that’s what I’m going to build towards. Being (almost) certain that that is what will do good for everyone involved: the participants and the audience. My mission was helping these boys to find joy in performing their role models and accepting their struggles through the medium of dance and puppetry, while setting up a “boy band-concert”. But when working with difficult to reach communities one should always bear in mind that it’s not about the end product, but about the process. (Which is, by the way, a beautiful metaphor for life.)

 

Anne Colvin started off by helping me to find ‘what defines me as an artist?’, ‘what are my inspirations?’ and ‘what is my creative process?’ Analysing these aspects helped me to give structure to how I usually work, to discover what my hang-ups are, as well as my pitfalls. Anne made me realise its important to be very conscious of what is ‘my inner world’ and what is the world of the ‘others’ we work with. Because only by realising the differences can I begin to build bridges which bring the ‘other’ into my world, help them to become open-minded to try to understand where I want to bring them to. At the same time I am capable of staying open minded for their worlds without imposing my ideas upon them.

 

In addition, this framework gives me the base to stay open to what participants may want to bring into the workshop without wiping it aside or letting it distract me. In this way I can learn from it, let it form part of our dialogue and most of all create with their input. This is what is the most beautiful aspect. In the end I want the practitioners to create the show themselves while I’m just guiding them. So far Anne Colvin has taught me to analyse my creative ideas in order to be able to deconstruct them into different objective elements and tasks, so that I can reflect upon them with the practitioners. In that way I can make them familiar with it and draw them into my matter, so they can create their own ideas and material, from which we can create something what reflects our united worlds.

 

In the end this is why I want to work with different communities. I would like to find the beauty of the individual authenticity in everyone, to bring it out and to let it shine- not only for the wellbeing and ‘feel-good’ of the individual participants, but also for the enjoyment of the audience too!

 

 

 

 

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